Thursday, April 14, 2016

I'm Back!

Today marks 12 weeks since open heart surgery and somehow the days passed quickly.  Prior to surgery I was dreading the days that I wouldn't be able to work with clay.  I have to admit the time passed and I was able to stay busy with other projects, mostly glazing, thanks to my foresight in working to have a batch of pieces that were ready to be glazed.  It helped me pass the time and be productive and gave me a load of pieces to take to my favorite two local galleries, Clay and Paper and Florida CraftArt for restocking.

My husband, Mark, helped me clear out and reorganize my workspace in the garage.  Actually he did all the work, I supervised.  Plus I am the proud owner of a Brent Ware Cart, thanks to Mark.  It's a wonderful addition to my small space and gives me so much more drying space for pieces.  I've come to the conclusion that it's a good idea to clean out, clear out and reorganize every ten years, whether you need it or not.

A huge milestone for me, besides hitting 12 weeks post op is that I got back on the potters wheel day before yesterday.  I threw four mugs!  It felt great and pain free.  No after effects either.  I'm excited to get back to creating and luckily I have some ideas.  So all's good.

I'm sharing a photo of my first mug after over 12 weeks.

Now for an update on my last post regarding where my focus would be heading.  As I get back to the potters wheel, I'm starting small at the suggestion of my surgeon.  Small to me means mugs.  So my plans are to keep mugs in my repertoire.  I've always felt that mugs were an important item to include.  I remember times when I would find a potter whose work I loved, but because of their stature in the ceramic community, the price for their larger work was out of my reach financially.  If they also had mugs, I felt like I hit the jackpot because I was able to purchase one of their pieces, have it in my collection and that it was priced at my level, even if it was expensive for a "mug" it was still worth it, in my opinion.  I remember those times and realize that mugs can be a good thing to make.  So, I will continue to make mugs.  I don't anticipate that I will be making as many mugs as I did in 2015.  The year of the catalog.  Looking back now, I realize that the catalog was an experience that I had to get out of my system.  It was great because it helped me to realize what my limit is for throwing in one day and how to work through the process.  But, over 200 mugs is a lot of mugs and that definitely burnt me out on mugs for a while.  Luckily, I had some downtime after surgery.

My mugs will be evolving.  I was able to take a wheel class from a great ceramic artist and potter, Ira Burhans.  I love his mugs.  In Ira's class, I was introduced to the Griffin Grip, of which I am now the proud owner.  It's a great way to easily center pieces for the purpose of trimming.  I was able to try it out for a few weeks before surgery and I'm loving the final look of the mugs that now have a foot rim.  The trimming also lightens the mugs up a bit, which I've been in need of for a while.  And thanks to Ira's instruction, I now can throw a little bit better for thinner walls.  I plan on signing up for Ira's class again in the fall.  As they way it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.
Here's a photo of one of the new mugs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Change of Pace

Sometimes a change of pace can be a good thing, especially for the creative spirit.  I had the opportunity to slow things down due to health issues.  I had open heart surgery January 21, 2016.  The surgery was a success!  I had one valve replaced and another repaired.  I'm feeling better already and looking forward to starting cardiac rehab.  I was forced to set my artwork aside and concentrate on taking it easy.  Because this was a planned versus emergency surgery, I had the opportunity to throw some ceramic pieces that I would be able to glaze as I started down the road to recovery.  That's helping me now, because I have things to work on during the months that I won't be able to throw on the potters wheel.  Luckily for me each phase of the creative process is very therapeutic.

This change of pace has given me the opportunity to think about what I really want to create.  Over the past few years I've migrated into being a mug maker.  It was an evolution.  As I reflect on what pieces bring me the most joy, I have to admit that I like making mugs and its a challenge to try to make the perfect mug, but my real joy comes from the sculptural pieces. My absolute favorites are the fish teapots.  Unfortunately, as I made more and more mugs, I had less and less time to create new teapots.

The time is now!  Because I have no stacks of order sheets and Christmas is behind us, this is the perfect time for me to turn over a new creative leaf.  I have decided to change my business model. To relieve and reduce stress, I am shifting away from made to order and custom made. Anything that I sell in my online Etsy shop will be ready to ship.  I'll still make mugs but not in the volume that I used to.  Mugs will always be a great warm up exercise on the potters wheel for me.

So, my to do list post-op is to continue to recover and increase my stamina and strength.  I have already reopened my Etsy shop and deactivated the made to order listings.  I have two teapots drying on the rack that I comstructed before surgery.  I have mugs ready to be glazed and a few that are ready to be fired.  I'm taking advantage of this time off to get my kiln serviced and new elements installed.  I'm excited about the future and having time to create new teapots as well as new sculptures and experimenting with new techniques and glazes.

Sometimes you just have to stop to smell the roses!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lump of Clay to Finished Mug

A few months ago I put together a two-part demo video for my art club, Westchase Artists Society.  We have monthly meetings and often our members give us a peak into their process.  For my month, I prepared a video that takes you through the entire process of lump of clay to finished mug.  Because my process is protracted over a period of weeks, it was easiest to scale it down to an edited and fast-forwarded video.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

That Little Old Mug Maker... Me

The first part of my pottery career was void of mugs.  I was more of a sculptural potter.  I tried my hand at making mugs, but was never happy with the finished form and handle.  So I just never pursued the mug.  A few years ago, probably close to 7 years ago, a group of potters that I belonged to had a "mug swap."  I wanted to be part of the event so I made some mugs.  They weren't as bad as I had remembered, so I made a few more.  Then I kept thinking about mugs and what I liked to have in a mug and my journey began, in search of the perfect mug.  I really got into making mugs and coming up with new surface decorations.  All of the sudden, mugs were a major part of my Etsy shop.  And, a major part of what I make.  If I'm going out into the Garagio, I'm more than likely going out to throw mugs, or handle mugs.  A good part of my clay time is spent on mugs.  As I throw each mug I try to improve my throwing skills.  I'm working towards a nice light, well balanced mug, with good form, a nice handle, that's pleasing to the eye.  Mugs challenge me like no other form does.  I hope that the day will come when I can sit down and throw a series of mugs that will be the same size and shape.  But that goal doesn't upset me that much, because each mug is slightly different.  It shows that a human was there instead of a machine.

Mugs are one of the most personal items that we can make.  We put our lips on the lip of the mug, we often fondle the body of the mug while enjoying our first cup of coffee.  I strive to make handles that will keep you far enough away from the body of the mug so you don't burn your hand, and that are large enough that you can get three to four fingers in for a secure hold.  I try to make the surface glaze decoration fun, with hopes that my mug will become one of your favorites - take it to work, live with it.

I've recently come to the conclusion that a switch in clay was in order.  After working with low fire earthenware clay for years, I made a switch to a high fire stoneware clay.  One benefit in this change is that the mugs will be more durable for everyday use.  Finally, I'm making a huge commitment to my pursuit of the perfect mug.  The high fire stoneware, is less susceptible to chipping, able to handle the dishwasher and microwave and also less problems with crazing (fine cracks in the glaze) as time goes by.

This switch in clay wasn't as easy as buying new clay.  The higher temperatures mean that the glazes that I was using for the earthenware clay either will change under the higher temperatures or cannot be used at all.  A major investment in new glazes was in order, as well as an investment in clay.  I had to go through some glaze testing to see how colors changed.  I also had to search out glaze charts that showed colors at the higher temperatures of cone 5.  Trying to match my earthenware colors was a real challenge and for some colors, like greens, I'm still in search of the perfect green.

So, I'm doing a good thing with this change.  I think that offering a product that's more durable and more versatile for every day use, has a value.  My next hurdle will be to land on a fair price that takes into consideration the added costs of production.   Pricing... the final frontier.

One Year Later

Sixteen days shy of one year and I'm back.  Not that I've gone away, just that I've had a busy year with new family responsibilities that have made me keep an eye on my time.  I've made some revelations.

One year ago I was fairly upset with Etsy and what seemed to be a move away from their dedication to Handmade.  I jumped on the Zibbet bandwagon as I'm reminded from my previous post.  My first insight was received from a fellow potter who made me realize that Etsy really is the perfect home for me.  That I shouldn't take changes that they make personally.  The one thing that I thought would happen, hasn't happened.  I thought that the site would be inundated with mass-produced product and that it would eventually have a schlocky look.  Much to my pleasant surprise, I'm not getting that feel at all.  Even with the expanded guidelines for sellers, Etsy is still the best website to find unique items, made by creative people.  I thought that with the numerous changes that my sales would tank.  I'm happy to say that has not been the case.  People continue to find me and continue to order and make requests for custom items.  I think that the changes that Etsy has made to the website with the goal of making it better for handhelds has been great.  And, the changes that they've made to the mobile version for Sellers are awesome.  I can take photos with my iPhone, and set up a listing all from my phone.  I would have never dreamt of doing that a year ago.  Huge bonus as far as I'm concerned.

So you might be wondering, what's up with Zibbet.  Well, not much.  I prepaid for one year and loaded up the shop.  I have a hard time keeping track of more than one website, so Zibbet has fallen by the wayside.  I  know that time and effort has to be put into a new shop and I blame the fact that I didn't put the effort into Zibbet.  It's unfair of me to say that the site didn't work for me, because I didn't work for it.  My revelation here is that I'd like to spend more time creating than on the computer.  I renewed on Zibbet and will see how that goes, and will stay focused on Etsy.  To make my life easier, I'll only use Zibbet for my photo and jewelry line and see what happens.  So, let's see what happens.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Interesting Times

You might notice a couple of new things on my blog.  One is the pledge for handmade, the other is Zibbet.  You might be asking yourself what's a Zibbet?  Well Zibbet is a marketplace website, similar to but different from Etsy.  The biggest difference as of late, is Zibbet's definition of Handmade.  You see Etsy recently changed it's corporate definition of handmade to include the use of outside vendors to create items.  For designers this is great because all they have to do is think up a design idea, hook up with a manufacturer, or group of people, and they can still use the term Handmade to describe their item.  As long as it's their idea, it's Handmade.  Sounds like mass-produced to me, but I'm just a little old potter.

The change in basic philosophy over at Etsy has created quite a stir.  Many sellers are moving to sites that support the traditional definition of handmade.  One such site is Zibbet.  Because I was reading so many good things about Zibbet, I thought I'd give it a try.  As a seller one of the biggest issues is how easy it is to load new listings.  Well I have to say that Zibbet has made it pretty easy to get new listings up.  They offer an import feature where you can download a .csv file from Etsy and feed it into Zibbet.  The listings are held in Edit mode so that you can make any necessary changes, and then just hit the button to list.  You definitely want to go through your listings in Edit mode to make sure that you're not linking to old Etsy shops. 

So I now sit straddling the Etsy/Zibbet fence, with one foot in Etsy and a big toe in Zibbet, I have an ethical, philosophical quandary.  Do I stay on Etsy and turn my head to the changes, stay for the sales?  Or, do I take a stand?  Do I pack up my listings and file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences?  One thing happened today that's pushing me closer to leaving.  A customer from Etsy posted on Zibbet that she has left Etsy for Zibbet due to the shoddy way that Etsy is treating it's Sellers.  I never thought about this rift through the eyes of a customer.  Time will tell.  Christmas is coming faster than I care to admit.  I'm busy making and shouldn't be spending time worrying about this "stuff."  So, like Tara from Gone With The Wind, I'll think about it another day, twiddleedee.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Change of Pace

Because of a simple raise of the hand, I began a trek into a bit of a change of pace for me.  My days are usually filled with clay, either throwing on the potter's wheel, constructing and hand building, glazing and firing, packing and shipping and various other duties that are part of the potter's process.  I pretty much am an artist devoted to clay. 

I feel like I've been cheating this past week.  A couple of months ago at my local art club meeting (the Westchase Artists Society) I volunteered to be a featured artist at one of two Fifth Third community banks in Westchase.  It's a partnership that we have with the banks to provide them with artwork for their walls in exchange for exhibition space for our artists.  It's a wonderful thing that the bank is doing for our group.  Sometimes, because most of our 2-D artists have been featured, it's hard to get someone new to volunteer, so I raised my hand.  I figured that I could frame some of my photographs and that would be that. 

Not so fast!  That is never THAT with me.  I was at Michael's (it's dangerous to have one within a mile of where you live) and they had a huge sale on stretched canvases, multi-packs, gallery wrapped, oh my.  I stocked up.  When you see a two-pack of 16" x 20" canvases for $3.99 what do you do, I ask you?  As time passed and it got closer to installation date for the bank, I started to think, wouldn't it be fun to paint?  And then I started thinking about what to paint.  My first thought was abstracts would be fun.  Then my next thought was FISH!   The paintings magically appeared from my brushes and paints.  I made a series of fish that pay homage to my ceramic fish teapots and tabletop fish.  So far, all are based on real reef fish.  And I must say after installing the paintings at the bank, they transformed the bank into a colorful and fun aquarium.  It really is nice to see paintings on the walls versus stacked up in a studio.

Just in case you're not in the area or able to get over to the 5/3 Bank in Westchase on Linebaugh Avenue, here are a few photos of the "girls" that are on display.